Fitness device maker Fitbit raises $12 million

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 24, 2012        

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Fitbit UltraFitbit, which offers the Fitbit Ultra activity monior and the Aria WiFi Smart Scale, announced its third round of funding: $12 million from existing investors. Foundry Group, True Ventures, SoftTech VC and Felicis Ventures all participated in the round.

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas a few weeks ago, Fitbit unveiled the Aria WiFi scale, its first product offering outside of wearable activity monitors. Similar to Withings’ WiFi scale, the Aria scale from Fitbit measures weight, body fat percentage, as well as BMI and uploads the data via the user’s home WiFi network to Fitbit’s online portal. The device is expected to launch in late April and will retail for $129.95.

When the weight scale launched Fitbit’s CEO James Park stated that consumer demand for products that combine health and technology is on the rise and analysts predict that the digital health industry will be worth $4 billion by 2014. Fitbit sells its devices in various retail stores including Target, Best Buy, Brookstone, REI, RadioShack, and more. It recently announced a deal to bring its wares to the UK, too.

Last October Fitbit launched the Ultra, the second generation of its original wearable fitness monitor. Like the original Fitbit device, the Ultra is a wireless-enabled, fitness and calorie tracking device small enough to clip on to the user’s clothing. Fitbit leverages an internal motion detector to track the wearer’s movement, sleep, and calorie burn during both the day and night. Fitbit provides users with metrics like: steps taken, miles traveled, calories burned, calories consumed, bedtime, time to fall asleep, number of times awoken, total time in bed, and actual time sleeping.

fitbitariaSome of Ultra’s new features include: a Stair Tracker that measures vertical steps via a new built-in altimeter, a Chatter motivational message system, and a Stopwatch Challenge for beating previous running times. New online tools and apps include badges for completing fitness challenges and a weight management tool that adjusts itself based on completed activities. Fitbit’s first iPhone App also includes food tracking and activity-planning features.

“We’ve moved beyond being a single product company and are creating incredible digital health products and experiences. This funding will help us accelerate the hiring of the best hardware and software engineers, designers, product managers and marketers, ” Park stated in a company press release.

One of the company’s longtime investors explains why Fitbit has an edge over the others on the growing field of competition:

“The digital health and fitness device category requires a deep understanding of consumer needs, an unquestionable ability to deliver a successful product and technical expertise built from years of experience in the industry,” said Brad Feld, Managing Director at Foundry Group. “Fitbit has demonstrated these traits while building and launching several successful digital health products and services and is clearly the leading company to grow this category to its full potential.”

More in the press release below: Keep reading>>

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Kaiser Permanente offers patients Android app for EMR access

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 24, 2012        

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KP Locator

KP Locator

Kaiser Permanente announced today that its nearly 9 million patients can now securely access their electronic medical records (EMRs) from a new, free mobile app on their Android devices or from other mobile devices via a mobile-optimized site. KP expects to launch an iPhone version of the app in the coming months, but it is notable the KP departed from the common practice of launching an iPhone app first followed by Android.

The healthcare system launched its first smartphone app last year: Kaiser Permanente offered an iPhone app, called KP Locator, that helps users locate its healthcare facilities last year.

The new mobile offerings grant Kaiser Permanente patients access to their lab test results and personal health records. They can also email their doctors, schedule appointments, refill prescriptions and locate Kaiser Permanente medical facilities right from the Android app or mobile site. Family members who are caring for a KP patient can also access the same services via their mobile devices, and those caring for elder patients can now refill prescriptions and communicate with the doctor’s office on behalf of the patient, too.

KP pointed out that its patients have been able to email their doctors for five years now, but the health system believes that making it even more convenient for patients by including the feature in the mobile app will lead to greater adoption of e-visits.

“This is the future of health care. Health care needs to be connected to be all that it can be. This new level of connectivity is happening real time, and it is happening on a larger scale than anything like it in the world,” stated George Halvorson, chairman and chief executive officer of Kaiser Permanente, in a press release. “The fact that a Kaiser Permanente patient in an emergency room in Paris or Tokyo can simply pull out their mobile device and have immediate and current access to their own medical information is an evolutionary and revolutionary breakthrough for medical connectivity.”

KP states that the mobile offerings use the same security safeguards that protect patient information on the traditional kp.org website. The measures include secure sign-on and automatic sign-out after the site detects user inactivity.

“The benefits of mobile extend beyond member engagement,” stated Philip Fasano, executive vice president and chief information officer, in a press release. “Mobile solutions can have a positive impact on health. Health care, itself, will be much more convenient for many people. The mobile-friendly site and app are also a springboard for new innovations that will inspire members to be aware of their health and take steps to improve it.”

For more read the KP press release below: Keep reading>>

2011: More than $500M in mobile health investments

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 24, 2012        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsAt the end of each calendar year quarter, MobiHealthNews pieces together the most important news, commentary, deals and analysis into a “state of the industry” report available in our premium content section (here). Purchase your copy of MobiHealthNews’ Q4 and 2011 Year-End Report: Mobile Health State of the Industry here.

Last year, 2011, was a big one for mobile health. MobiHealthNews tracked more than 100 deals and partnerships throughout the year and about 60 venture capital investments. We tracked more than half a billion dollars in investments into mobile health companies during the past year. While there were a handful of massive deals, including the $75 million ZocDoc raised over the course of 2011, most of the investment deals were for a couple million each.

The total investment in mobile health-related companies in 2011 was more than twice as much as total investment in 2010. As MobiHealthNews reported about a year ago, the total investment in mHealth companies in 2010 was $233 million. There were also only a little more than a dozen announced investment rounds in 2010. In 2011 there were about four times that many. It also brought in dozens of new investment firms.

Our latest research offering, Mobile Health Q4 and 2011 Year-end State of the Industry Report, includes a roundup of all the notable deals and partnerships, write-ups on each of the investment deals, as well as other recaps of payor news, regulatory changes, healthcare provider announcements, mobile launches from pharma companies, mobile operators and more. Looking for a review of mobile health in 2011? We’ve got you covered with this 40-page report.

Healthbox startup CareWire measures patient experience by SMS

By: Neil Versel | Jan 24, 2012        

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David NicholsSometimes, a smartphone app is more than you need. Sometimes, it is not enough. Perhaps, the “just right” approach is simple technology like a text message.

That is the underlying principle behind CareWire, which automates appointment reminders and other administrative information so health systems can cut down on no-shows and unprepared patients in hopes of producing more productive encounters, reducing hospital admissions and boosting patient encounters. CareWire is the product of Minneapolis-based Healthy Heartland Inc. (HHI), one of the 10 startups that new health incubator Healthbox is supporting.

Each company gets $50,000 in seed funding and is participating in a three-month program in which they are given office space in Healthbox’s temporary Chicago headquarters, plus access to a team of mentors. At the end of the three months, companies will make pitches to venture capitalists in hopes of scoring larger investments.

Healthbox announced its first class of startups in December began the mentoring program in early January. The incubator held a kickoff event and open house in Chicago last week.

“The genesis of CareWire is that there is a variety of ways currently to listen for patient satisfaction and patient dissatisfaction,” Chief Operating Officer and co-founder David Nichols told MobiHealthNews in an interview during the open house. Those ways could include surveys, social media scanning or “ethnographic” interviews, according to Nichols.

“But we were thinking, what would be the least-cost, most widely available medium for engaging with patients and actually getting more or less a blink response from them as to their level of engagement, level of satisfaction, and so on?”

“SMS is nice in that there is no app to download and install. There’s no specific password or security routine you have to go through,” Nichols explained. Plus, most mobile phones made in the last 10 years are capable of handling SMS.

“At least currently, it’s one of the most immediate messaging mediums out there. It has the brevity and directness of Twitter but it has the impact of instant messaging,” said Nichols, who met business partner and CareWire CEO Scott Danielson when both worked at UnitedHealth Group.

At United, Nichols led the development of a business called UnitedHealth at Home, which provides short-term, post-discharge insurance for in-home care. Danielson later moved to AARP, where he helped launch AARPHealth, a health engagement portal for the organization and its members.

They founded Healthy Heartland in late 2009, and started working on CareWire in early 2011, developing the business model and getting feedback from providers, two of which became the company’s pilot sites. CareWire now is testing its technology at Park Nicollet Clinics in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and at Mercy Clinics in Des Moines, Iowa.

According to Nichols, the participating clinics have mobile numbers for 85 percent of their patients. One organization asks patients to opt in, while the other will include patients unless they opt out.

With Medicare cutting off reimbursements for some preventable hospital readmissions and with the advent of Accountable Care Organizations and bundled payments, health systems are finding less incentive to fill their beds and are more motivated to manage cases in primary care. Keep reading>>

Nike+ Fuel Band looks to compete on design

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 23, 2012        

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Nike+ Fuel BandThese days when it comes to connected fitness devices, what a device is capable of doing is less of a differentiator from how a device looks and how it engages its user. That’s why the unveiling of the Nike+ Fuel Band device this past week was less of a technological breakthrough for fitness devices, and more of a breakthrough in fitness device design.

At first blush, based on form alone, it sure looks like Nike has set itself apart from the pack.

The device’s name, Nike+ Fuel Band, comes from the virtual health currency, or the composite score, that the device tracks: Nike Fuel.

Nike launched the device at a media event hosted by talk show host Jimmy Fallon and guests including professional cyclist Lance Armstrong, professional basketball player Kevin Durant, and professional sprinter Carmelita Jeter. Nike is marketing the device with the slogan: “Life is a Sport.” While the Nike+ Fuel Band demo video claims the device is designed for use by anyone, the initial launch and other marketing materials show Nike isn’t shying away from marketing the device to the fitness-inclined and sports-minded.

At the event Nike executives announced that total Nike+ users now number more than 5 million. Keep reading>>

AT&T offers to secure tablets, messages for healthcare

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 23, 2012        

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Cisco Cius Tablet Docking StationAT&T announced two new mobile security services for healthcare providers: security services for tablets and secure messaging services that enable providers to send encrypted information in HIPAA-compliant ways. Appointment reminders, lab results, and payment notices were among the type of messages that AT&T provided as examples. AT&T is working with Soprano to power its secure mobile messaging platform.

The two new mobile security offerings are called AT&T Managed Tablets and AT&T Global Smart Messaging Suite for Healthcare.

The tablet security offering follows on the growing trend of tablet adoption among healthcare providers, especially physicians. As has been pointed out repeatedly in the past few years, tablets and other mobile devices likely increase security threats given their portable and sometimes highly desirable status. As physicians push to have better access to hospital information systems, especially EMRs, right from their mobile devices, companies like AT&T see an opportunity to provide security services and help CIOs feel more comfortable about enabling providers access to sensitive data on tablets.

AT&T says its tablet security offering can work with any tablet. Part of the offering includes remote wipe capability, so the device can be erased if it is lost or stolen. The mobile operator also says the offering works for both tablets that a healthcare facility deploys to its physicians as well as those personal devices that care providers bring in from home.

The AT&T Global Smart Messaging Suite for Healthcare, which AT&T is working with Soprano to offer, includes encrypted outbound messages that enable providers to send patients highly-secure healthcare communications when they opt-in to do so. Cipher is the part of the system that transmits the encrypted information, while a downloadable app, called AT&T Secure Messaging, decrypts the message. The offering works across mobile operators, on any smartphone platform, and on some feature phones.

“Text messaging is proving to be an effective way to engage patients in their care, improve patient satisfaction, and even improve clinical outcomes,” Dr. Joseph Kvedar, Founder and Director of the Center for Connected Health, Partners HealthCare, stated in the AT&T announcement. “Messaging programs have great potential for providing low-cost, accessible, educational messaging to patients, and we look forward to additional applications of these powerful tools for reaching diverse and large patient populations.”

For more, check out the press release below: Keep reading>>